WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A new public charter school is preparing to open next year and hundreds of parents are expected to clamor for a space for their children.
The Island Montessori School is expected to get final approval from the state next month for the new school. It will start accepting applications on March 11.
Right now, the school is operating a preschool for students from ages 1 to 6 at its building in Carolina Beach.
The school will expand into a second building on Carolina Beach Road to accommodate its kindergarten to 5th grade.
School leaders plan to be fully open for students for the 2013-2014 school year.
Right now, they're hiring on 20 positions, including teachers and a principal position.
The school is tuition free and will accept 144 students. If school leaders get more applications than they have spaces, they will hold a lottery.
Anyone can apply to send their child to the school, as long as they live in North Carolina.
According to board members, the facility will be Wilmington's first fully public Montessori school and one of the newest charter schools in New Hanover County since the state cap was removed.
Jennifer Friend, who is one of the founders of the school, said students will get what's called a Montessori education, which is named for education pioneer, Dr. Maria Montessori. Friend explained that this means students will receive an individualized education, in multi-age classes, using hands on learning.
"Montessori is only offered at private schools at a very high price tag so the nice thing about being able to do this as a charter school is we are making Montessori available to families who may otherwise be able to afford Montessori for their child," said Friend.
She said there is a need for this type of school in New Hanover County.
"There aren't many school choices in our area," she said. "All of the elementary schools in this part of New Hanover County are over capacity - some by 100 students. So, I feel like not only are we going to be able to offer a unique curriculum to families in our area but we're going to be able to alleviate some of that over capacity."
New Hanover County School Board Chair Don Hayes said he's not opposed to charter schools.
He said the board has always been supportive of parental choice. They would prefer that students attend public schools; however, Hayes said he feels parents should be able to decide what's in the best interest of their children.
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